“Right vs. Left” Misses the Point
People are conditioned to believe that either the left or the right is their enemy. Maybe this is confusion.
The left sees in the right advocacy of corporate exploitation, oppression of those who opt for alternative lifestyles, and the enforcement of correct religion in our country and throughout the world. The right sees in the left the exploitation of the productive for the benefit of the unproductive, oppression of those who opt for traditional or religious lifestyles, and the enforcement of particular behaviors deemed to be healthy and/or sustainable.
Stereotypes do not exist for no reason. The left and the right are both justified in their claim that some of their opposition reinforces the stereotype. But the overall understanding of the other side is distorted. The problem is this:
Most people’s perception of the opposition is formed from a presentation of the opposition’s most aggressive advocates.
And the reason is that virtually the only example of the opposition that most people encounter is from mainstream news sources. Because the mainstream news sources have to make their points in bite-sized segments and articles that will titillate and impact the reader/viewer as quickly as possible, they go out of their way to present extreme examples that reinforce stereotypes. In addition, reinforcing a stereotype is an easy way for a reporter to gain credibility because it makes his piece consistent with what the individual already assumes to be true. So we see radical demonstrators worshipping their party leadership at conventions, calling for gays to go to hell, calling for corporate bigwigs to be hung, and calling for the total annihilation of western civilization. These pieces resonate with us because, “Yeah, we always knew those people are that way.”
However, if you look at regular people you find that they, in actual practice, have little enthusiasm for forceful action. Most people play little to no role in activist organizations. Most people do not participate in political protest or demonstration. Most people are not suicide bombers or vigilantes. Most people aren’t political bloggers! In fact, most people are barely motivated to even cast a vote. And this is the case for people on the left and on the right. Yes, if a pollster calls a person and presses them for an opinion on a particular issue they will give an answer, but their action (or lack thereof) says that they don’t really care enough about the issue to do anything about it. These are not the people we see on TV, and yet they are the majority.
The people we see on TV are a very different breed than those with whom we interact every day.
Normal people prioritize peace and being left alone over any activist cause.
And these essentially passive peaceful types exist on the left and on the right. They theoretically identify more with the left or more with the right, but they have very little real commitment to political causes. This is not a bad thing. What it means is that these vast armies of forceful dogmatists that we are told to fear do not actually exist.
Maybe the enemy isn’t the people who identify with the left. Maybe the enemy isn’t the people who identify with the right. Maybe the enemy is the enthusiastic authoritarian who sees government force as the first resort in dealing with problems. Maybe the enemies are the rabble-rousers who present scary images of and tell scary stories about rabidly angry mobs with the implied lesson being that, “we need to get them before they get us.” Maybe the enemy is the person who arouses the peaceful by convincing them that their peace is about to be violently interrupted “by the other guys”.
Maybe the enemy is the very control-stick of government force for which the instigator minority lusts insatiably. These people strive to keep us more acutely focused on each other than on them. They do not want us to realize that the real battle is not between the left and the right.
The real battle is between the peaceful and the instigators.